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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 7 - studies of the Internet in China show polarized conclusions (Wang, 2007). Yang’s (2003) study demonstrates the Internet’s power to promote civil society in China. Based on secondary survey data and in-depth case studies around 2000, he suggested that the Internet was influential in reshaping existing social structures. Li’s (2010) study supports Yang’s findings. From 2000 to 2003, the Internet played a significant role in promoting public discussions that finally lead to the government’s reforming some policies. The Internet gathered audiences to generate cutting-edge discussions and gained certain “political weight” (Papacharissi, 2002, p.23) for offline public seminars and political activities. Additionally, public petitions were frequently organized and immediately disseminated via the forums. However, after these successes, the state started to reinforce surveillance of the online public venues (Wang, 2007). Based on discourse analysis of recent discussions on major online forums in China, Li (2010) found the three most popular topics were: irrational discussions of Sino-foreign conflicts, grassroots-pop stars’ freak shows and hatred toward privileged social groups. These discourses seldom carried deliberative discussions on public matters. However, Zhou, Chan and Peng’s (2008) study indicate some positive views. Based on a content analysis of discussions on a newspaper-hosted online forum, they suggested in general, Chinese online discussion forums were at the beginning stage of being a public sphere. The researchers noticed that: (1) a majority of the participants could form rational supportive arguments; (2) the diversity of discussion participants was limited; (3) the level of complexity of online discussions was very low; and (4) the number of disagreements or debates was limited. Cheong and Gong (2010) documented the netizens’ using online data to identify corrupt officers’ abuse of power and to pressure the authorities. Social media facilitated the Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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- 7 -
studies of the Internet in China show polarized conclusions (Wang, 2007). Yang’s (2003) 
study demonstrates the Internet’s power to promote civil society in China. Based on 
secondary survey data and in-depth case studies around 2000, he suggested that the 
Internet was influential in reshaping existing social structures. Li’s (2010) study supports 
Yang’s findings. From 2000 to 2003, the Internet played a significant role in promoting 
public discussions that finally lead to the government’s reforming some policies. The 
Internet gathered audiences to generate cutting-edge discussions and gained certain 
“political weight” (Papacharissi, 2002, p.23) for offline public seminars and political 
activities. Additionally, public petitions were frequently organized and immediately 
disseminated via the forums.  However, after these successes, the state started to reinforce 
surveillance of the online public venues (Wang, 2007). Based on discourse analysis of 
recent discussions on major online forums in China, Li (2010) found the three most 
popular topics were: irrational discussions of Sino-foreign conflicts, grassroots-pop stars’ 
freak shows and hatred toward privileged social groups. These discourses seldom carried 
deliberative discussions on public matters. However, Zhou, Chan and Peng’s (2008) 
study indicate some positive views. Based on a content analysis of discussions on a 
newspaper-hosted online forum, they suggested in general, Chinese online discussion 
forums were at the beginning stage of being a public sphere. The researchers noticed that: 
(1) a majority of the participants could form rational supportive arguments; (2) the 
diversity of discussion participants was limited; (3) the level of complexity of online 
discussions was very low; and (4) the number of disagreements or debates was limited. 
Cheong and Gong (2010) documented the netizens’ using online data to identify corrupt 
officers’ abuse of power and to pressure the authorities. Social media facilitated the 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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